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Corymbia ficifolia (F.Muell.) K.D.Hill & L.A.S.Johnson 1995‘Fairy Floss’
pronounced: kor-RIM-bee-uh fy-kee-FOH-lee-uh
(Myrtaceae – the gum family)
Synonym: Eucalyptus ficifolia F.Muell 1860
pronounced: yoo-kuh-LIP-tuss fy-kee-FOH-lee-uh
Common name: Red-flowering Gum
Corymbia is from the Greek κορυμβος (korymbos), a cluster, referring to the flowering habit. The genus was separated from Eucalyptus in 1995, and contains those gum trees whose flowers are borne in corymbs, flat-topped floral clusters with the outer flowers opening first. Ficifolia is from the Latin ficus, fig, and folium, a leaf: leaves like those of the fig tree.
Corymbia ficifolia occurs naturally in a very restricted sub-coastal area south-east of Perth in Western Australia, east of Mount Franklin and Walpole, near Albany and in the Stirling Range. It has become one of the most widely cultivated gums both in Australia and overseas, and in cultivation often grows larger and more vigorously than in its native habitat. Due to the difficulty of growing all eucalypts from cuttings, the tree is usually propagated from seed, and so the resulting plants vary greatly both in the plant habit and the colour of the flowers. Recently growers have experimented with grafted trees in an effort to circumvent this, and ‘Fairy Floss’ is one of the outcomes. The sapling photographed has been planted in a nature strip in Picnic Bay, and it will be interesting to see if it does well so far out of its native range, which is more Mediterranean in climate.
The Red-flowering Gum is usually a smallish straggly tree to about 10 m in height, forming a lignotuber. The bark is fairly rough up to the small branches, fibrous, rarely tessellated, and brown to grey-brown in colour. The juvenile growth has stems that are round in cross-section, sometimes scabrid on the lower portion, the leaves alternate, ovate to broadly lanceolate, bases cordate to rounded to truncate, and the lower leaves sometimes scabrid. The adult leaves have petioles up to about 2 or 2.5 cm long, the blade to 13 or so cm long by 5 cm wide, and flat to slightly undulate; they are dull to slightly glossy, discolorous, a darker green above and a lighter green below, the base tapering to the petiole, occasionally rounded, the margin entire and the apex acute. The growth habit of ‘Fairy Floss’ is small, dense, and rounded.
The inflorescences are terminal, peduncles to about 3 cm long, 7 buds per umbel, on pedicels up to about 3 cm long; the stamens are inflexed, the anthers oblong, versatile, dorsifixed, dehiscing by longitudinal slits; the style is long and straight, the stigma mop-like. Flower colour varies from bright red to pink to orange. In ‘Fairy Floss’ the flowers are pale pink to almost white.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2015
Page last updated 2nd November 2016